Ime Udoka Calls Out Celtics, Urging Starters to ‘Play Together’

Getty Images Celtics head coach Ime Udoka directs his team

After rallying back from a 24-point deficit, the Boston Celtics, on the cusp of stunning the San Antonio Spurs, grabbed a seven-point lead with only three minutes left to play before the collapse ensued en route to a disappointing loss for head coach Ime Udoka and the Celtics.

Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray (29 points, 11 rebounds) was sensational, leading San Antonio’s 15-0 run that closed out a 96-88 win over the Celtics.

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With 3:21 left, Marcus Smart converted a 10-foot pull-up shot that gave Boston its biggest lead of the night (88-81) before Murray and the Spurs caught fire while the Celtics went scoreless, shooting a combined 0-for-5 from the floor.

Ime Udoka Urging Celtics ‘To Play Together’

The Celtics, once again, got off to a slow start. In its 123-104 loss to the Brooklyn Nets at TD Garden, Wednesday night, Boston trailed 29-22 at the end of the first quarter.

This time around, the Celtics fell steep at San Antonio, as the Spurs led 30-14 at the end of the opening frame.

“Across the board, you looked at us at halftime, the numbers were ugly,” Udoka said about his team’s offensive struggles against the Spurs, Friday night. “2-for-10, 1-for-9, 0-for-7 from three of our starters at least. We talked about offensively playing with more pace, playing together; not trying to do it by yourself. So, obviously, the second half was a different story there — where we scored the ball extremely well. Just can’t dig ourselves that hole. Come out flat for no reason, we know what they’re going to do defensively and just have to continue to play together. It’s habits that we need to break.”

Udoka Says Celtics Starters ‘Just Get Baskets for Themselves’ in Opening Frame

It’s a habit Udoka says that starts with his current starting lineup — which is without starting center Robert Williams (non-COVID illness).

“Not trying to go isolation with all. You have Marcus (Smart), Jaylen (Brown), Jayson (Tatum), and Dennis (Schroder) starting they need to learn to play together, not try to just get baskets for themselves,” Udoka added. “That’s what really hurt us in the first quarter. Then, we got back to who we are in the last three quarters.”

Tatum led the Celtics with a team-high 24 points on 9-of-23 from the floor. Brown added 16 points on 6-of-16 attempts while Murray’s 29 points led five Spurs players in double figures, including Keldon Johnson and Derrick White, who scored a combined 34 points (17 apiece) on 12-of-28 attempts.

“Defensively, nobody could stop Dejounte Murray. He got some 1-on-1’s and made some tough shots over, pretty much, everybody so he kind of picked his spots there,” Udoka said after Friday’s loss. “Offensively, I don’t think we got quality looks. We subbed in Al (Horford) and Jaylen (Brown) at the end and in those last three minutes we were up 88-81, didn’t score the rest of the way. The 15-0 run to end it. So, it was a little bit on both sides; defensively and offensively, couldn’t stop Dejounte.

“Dennis (Schroder) got blocked on one, Jaylen missed a layup, Jayson (Tatum) missed a layup, Al missed a pull-up jumper and bobbled a pocket pass. So, it seemed like it kind of snowballed offensively. Didn’t get the looks that we wanted to that we got to get us back into the lead and, as I said, Dejounte kind of picked everybody apart there.”

The Celtics will take on the Toronto Raptors, Sunday at Scotiabank Arena.


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